Most one-off solo projects fail to cast much light on the musicians who make them -- but the debut by Greg Graffin, longtime lead singer for Bad Religion, is a noteworthy exception. Cold as the Clay is a dark folk album that works on its own terms even as it provides a new way of looking at the heartfelt punk of Graffin's main group.
Produced by BR's Brett Gurewitz, Clay sets five public-domain airs alongside a like number of ditties composed by Graffin, and the blend is inspired. Old-timey stuff such as "Little Sadie," a murder ballad that ends with the narrator wearing "the ball and stripes," are rendered using banjos and other traditional instruments, yet they exude unexpected intensity. As for strong originals like "Rebel's Goodbye" and the title cut, which features redolent background vocalizing by Jolie Holland, their subtle electric arrangements bridge vintage styles and today's slam-bang.
The connection between punk and folk may come as a shock to today's skater tots. But as Graffin's latest demonstrates, it's been there all along.
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